Moving Prayuth

26 05 2021

The Bangkok Post reports on a recent media event where the red-yellow anti-government group, Samakkhi Prachachon, came together again to demand that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha “resign for poor governance over the past seven years.”

Prayuth gunning for democracy

The group, led by Adul Khiewboriboon and Jatuporn Prompan handed over a letter that “accused Gen Prayut of failing to fulfil his promises, adding he failed to achieve reforms and reconciliation, while political conflicts have worsened and corruption has increased.” Of course, from the day of the 2014 military coup, these were false promises.

Observing that “Gen Prayut had claimed he remained in power to protect the royal institution,” they claimed his use of Article 112 was “to destroy his political opponents.” Of course, the link between military and monarchy has become almost unbreakable and defines political power and action.

Interestingly, Jatuporn “called on Gen Prayut to follow in the footsteps of the late Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, who turned down a request to remain as prime minister after holding office for eight years.” He kind of mishmashes history. Prem was essentially brought down in a campaign for an elected prime minister and by wavering support in the military.

Prem and Prayuth

In fact, though, for all of his failings, those who supported the coup got exactly what they wanted. Gen Prayuth remains in power, though unelected, through the support of unelected, junta-appointed senators, put in place by a constitution that rigged the political system and election laws and a politicized and biased Election Commission that rigged the 2019 election outcome. That rigged system is supported by a Constitutional Court that is remarkably biased to the extent that it appears to fall in line with the regime as if it is an arm of government.

In such a system, moving Prayuth requires splits in the regime or a major political crisis that shatters the military-monarchy-bureaucracy alliance.





Down the shute

4 03 2021

PPT doesn’t always post on rankings, but the Freedom House index struck us as telling of Thailand’s descent into a dark era. Freedom House’s report now ranks Thailand as Not Free. While one might dispute such indices, it is clear that the country now languishes with some sad companions in these “league tables,” looking far more authoritarian than democratic.

Freedom House’s report on Thailand begins:

Thailand’s status declined from Partly Free to Not Free due to the dissolution of a popular opposition party that had performed well in the 2019 elections, and the military-dominated government’s crackdown on youth-led protests calling for democratic reforms.

It goes on

Following five years of military dictatorship, Thailand transitioned to a military-dominated, semi-elected government in 2019. In 2020, the combination of democratic deterioration and frustrations over the role of the monarchy provoked the country’s largest anti-government demonstrations in a decade. In response to these youth-led protests, the regime resorted to familiar authoritarian tactics, including arbitrary arrests, intimidation, lèse-majesté charges, and harassment of activists. Freedom of the press is constrained, due process is not guaranteed, and there is impunity for crimes committed against activists.

Read it all here.





Updated: Going Chinese on Myanmar

1 02 2021

With a military coup in Myanmar, the military-backed and populated regime in Bangkok has responded as you would expect.

Despite bogus claims that the rigged 2019 election made the military junta somehow “democratic,” Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has shown that the military mindset rules.

Gen Prawit declared that the coup, the democratically-elected government that won in a landslide, and the military detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and several other leaders of her party as an “internal affair.”

This response sounded very much like it might have come from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Naturally enough, Cambodia’s autocratic leader Hun Sen concurred that it was an “internal matter.”

Of course, Gen Prawit has been involved in at least two military coups in Thailand and he and other military bosses are close to Myanmar’s military.

The company the regime keeps shows that military domination, coups, mad monarchism, and oligarchy does the country no good at all.

Update: Prachatai reports: “As the Myanmar military seizes power, detains politicians and declares a 1-year state of emergency, the democratic opposition in Thailand condemns the putsch and holds a protest in front of the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok…”. In another Prachatai report, it is reported that “after Thais and Myanmarese staged a protest against the coup by the Myanmar military this afternoon, they were dispersed by the Royal Thai Police with shields and batons. 3 people were arrested.”

Thailand’s military-monarchy despots have become the protectors of authoritarian regimes.

 





HRW on Thailand’s human rights decline

16 01 2021

When you are near the bottom, going deeper requires particular skills in dark arts.

Human Rights Watch has recently released its World Report 2021. The summary on Thailand makes for depressing reading, even after more than six years of military junta and now a barely distinguishable post-junta regime.

The full report on Thailand begins:

Thailand faced a serious human rights crisis in 2020. Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha’s government imposed restrictions on civil and political rights, particularly freedom of expression, arbitrarily arrested democracy activists, engineered the dissolution of a major opposition political party on politically motivated grounds, and enforced a nationwide state of emergency, using the Covid-19 pandemic as a pretext.

And the rest of the report is pretty much a litany of repression. There’s discussion of the State of Emergency, restrictions on freedom of expression, torture, enforced disappearance, impunity on state-sponsored rights violations, the persecution of human rights defenders, a continuation of human rights violations in the south, mistreatment of migrants and refugees, and more. Surprisingly, there’s only a paragraph on lese majeste, which is now the regime’s main weapon in silencing dissent.

Readers of PPT will know all of the sordid details of the regime’s efforts to stifle criticism, but read the report to be reminded of how dark things have remained despite the rigged election and the existence of a parliament. The latter has, in 2020, been pretty much supine as the regime has used its ill-gotten majority and its unelected Senate to stifle the parliaments scrutiny of the regime.





A junta win

28 12 2020

One of the main aims of the long period of junta rule was to produce rules and manage politics in a manner that wound back the clock to a pre-1997 era of electoral politics.

Their efforts meant that the post-junta regime could finagle a national election “victory” and make use of the junta-appointed Senate to ensure that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha could continue as prime minister. At the same time, the regime had delayed and delayed local elections so that it could ensure that it had measures in place that prevented national election-like “surprises.” Of course, it also used the Army and ISOC to control civilian administration and arranged for the Future Forward Party to be dissolved.

When the post-junta regime got around to local elections, the result provided evidence that the electoral wind back had been successful.

While initial commentary focused on the “failure” of Move Forward. In fact, while the party didn’t win any Provincial Administrative Organization chair positions, its candidates took more then 50 PAO seats and received 2.67 million votes.  This was on a voter turnout of just over 62% – low compared to the national election.

As time has gone on, commentators have become more incisive in assessing the results. Thai Enquirer wrote of a return to old-style politics, with political dynasties controlling local politics. A Bangkok Post editorial also focused on these factors, commenting: “About 40% of the winners of the PAO elections, Thailand’s first local elections in some seven years, are old faces, with the ruling Palang Pracharath Party making a big sweep in more than 20 provinces, followed by Bhumjaithai, almost 10, and Pheu Thai, nine.”

Recently, Peerasit Kamnuansilpa is Dean, College of Local Administration, Khon Kaen University writing at the Bangkok Post, has explained the big picture. He asks: “Are these elections really meaningful?” He concludes: “The net result is business as usual for PAOs, and Thailand will still be the prisoner of a highly centralised local administration.”

Helpfully, Peerasit lists the reasons for the failure of local democracy, all of them focused on junta/post-junta efforts to turn the clock back. He observes that the junta/post-junta has co-opted “local governments to become agents of the central government…”. He explains:

Following the 2014 coup, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), under then-army chief Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha upended a foundation of Thai democracy by issuing an order to suspend local elections. The politically powerful junta then began to co-opt all locally elected politicians and local government officials to become centrally appointed representatives of the central government.

This process began with NCPO’s Order Number 1/2557, in which one prescribed role of the locally elected leaders was to become partners of the military junta in restoring peace and order to the country. This made them complicit in undermining local governments in exchange for being able to legitimately keep their positions for an unspecified period of time without having to undergo the process of competing with other local candidates to secure the consent of the local citizens to allow them to serve. In other words, if they played ball with the junta, they would not need to face elections.

This “co-optation was then delegated to the Interior Ministry. This change obligated the leaders and the executives of all local governments to be accountable to the central government, thus becoming de facto representatives of the central government. Consequently, local leaders then had an allegiance to the powers in the central government.”

His view is that a promising decentralization has been destroyed: “In effect, the central government is — and has been — committed to failure from the beginning, by creating weak local government organisations.”

The people are not fooled and he reports data that “revealed that, when compared to other types of local governments, the PAOs were perceived as less beneficial than all other types of local governments within the surveyed provinces.” PAO level government is a processing terminal for the regime:

… PAO’s primary function has remained: serving as a conduit of budget allocation to be “authorised” by the provincial governor. This budgetary control by the governor is actually a smokescreen for influence by the central government of 76 provincial budgets, accounting for a very large amount of funding.

While yet another decline in Thailand’s democracy can be lamented, the fact remains that this is exactly what the junta wanted when it seized power in 2014.

 





Monarchy and (more) repression

16 06 2020

With repression being deepened, the prime minister who seized power in the 2014 military coup and who remains in power through military might, his junta’s constitution and rigged elections, has issued a stern warning about anti-monarchism.

Of course, it is no coincidence that this warning comes after the enforced disappearance of Wanchalaerm Satsaksit, the piling on of lese majeste-like computer crimes charges for young social media figure “Niranam_” and ongoing protests in Europe against the king.

With a minion when the king was once in Thailand

As in the past, the regime imagines a plot and a movement led by some unnamed anonymous puppet-master.

Gen Prayuth lamented that what he thinks are “violations” of the lese majeste law “had increased since its use ceased 2-3 years ago.” He reportedly said the king “has … instructed me personally over the past two to three years to refrain from the use of the Law…”. While we already knew this from the king-supporting Sulak Sivaraksa, this is, we think, the first time an official has acknowledged this instruction.

(As an aside, we want to emphasize that under the previous king, royalists defended him on lese majeste by saying he was powerless to do anything about the law. Vajiralongkorn showed what a pile of buffalo manure that excuse was.)

The unelected PM saw anti-monarchism as doubly troubling as he believed that the king, by not using Article 112, had shown “mercy,” and this was being “abused.”

Gen Prayuth called for “unity” by which he means that royalists must defend the monarchy: “Everyone who loves the nation, religion, and monarchy must come together.” Oddly, he warned about the danger of “violent revolutions.” And, Reflecting a broader royalist concern, he worried that “anti-monarchists may use the upcoming anniversary [24 June] of the 1932 democratic revolution to defame the monarchy.”

And he warned that people should “disregard any messages that aim to harbor hatred in the society.” He means anti-monarchism. He added a pointed remark that PPT thinks is a threat:

Those who are operating from abroad should think about what they should or shouldn’t do, where else could if they faced problems in that country? I feel pity as they are Thai citizens.

In what appears as a coordinated warning, the Watchman, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan said “security officials” – that usually means the military – were already “investigating those involved” in this alleged anti-monarchist plot.

He was warning: “Once we get the list of names, we’ll prosecute them” using lese majeste-like laws including computer crimes and sedition.

Prayuth seemed to want Article 112 back, complaining that “[t]here were no such problems when Section 112 was in use,” which is actually buffalo manure. When the junta came to power, it repeatedly claimed republican plotting and used the lese majeste law more than any other regime, ever.

He went on to pile on lies and threats:

As a Thai, you must not believe distorted information or news from hatemongers because it’s not true. You must look behind [their motive] and see what they really want. … Why would you become their tool?

Targeting the young, he “urged people not to disseminate such information or click to read it, referring to social media.” It is easy to see why the regime has targeted “Niranam_”. They are making an example of him as a way to (they hope) silence others.

There’s also a hint that the regime is coming under pressure from royalists and perhaps even the palace itself to do something about the protests in Europe and criticism from exiles:

Regarding exiled people in neighbouring countries and Europe, he said the government had already sent letters asking those countries to send them back to Thailand if they caused trouble. “But when they don’t send them back, what do you expect the government to do?”

It seems clear that enforced disappearance and torture and murder is one outcome of displeasure with these dissidents.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

One response to these warnings has been social media disdain for the regime and the generals. Another response came from former Future Forward MP Pannika Wanich who called for the lese majeste law to be abolished: “they should get rid of this section of the criminal code as the MPs of the Move Forward Party have been saying in Parliament…”. For good measure, she also called for the Computer Crimes Act be amended.





Back to military dictatorship

4 04 2020

We all know that the current regime is the military’s regime. While it might have played with parliamentary politics for a short time, following a rigged election, the virus has allowed for the re-institution of military dictatorship.

Looking around the world there’s lots of democratic backsliding over the virus. Of course, there was already considerable backsliding over the past few years, and the coronavirus seems to have accelerated this slippery slope.

Like other leaders, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has declared: “In prevention and assisting the people, we will follow the principle of health before freedom…”. Fearful populations jump into line.

Gen Prayuth has declared a state of emergency and instituted a nightly curfew nationwide.

An interesting and disturbing Thai twist to this global restriction of civil liberties and political freedoms is the use of the military.

It is reported that Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong “has appointed military units to survey areas nationwide from 10pm to 4am” during the curfew.

Gen Apirat “made his remarks while presiding over a meeting of the Army Operations Centre through video conferencing to follow up on the Covid-19 pandemic at the Royal Thai Armed Forces Headquarters…”.

As we mentioned previously, it does seem that the military is running the country. Gen Prayuth looks increasingly like a processing terminal for the military brass.

Gen Apirat has stated that the Army leadership has “appointed the Directorate of Operations to order the deputy director of the Internal Security Operations Command in each Army region to cooperate with provinces to conduct a survey…”.

Oddly, this order is sent from Gen Apirat to himself as he is the ISOC deputy director. It is unclear whether the regime has “ordered” the military to do this. It looks much more like the military flexing its muscles.

Odder still, Gen Apirat oversees organizations that have flouted civilian orders during the virus crisis and caused dozens of infections. (Still no apology or serious “investigation” as far as we can tell.)

It does look like the military is in charge. This is dangerous for Thailand.





Emergency decree, “election” anniversary

24 03 2020

The regime has now enacted “an emergency decree, along with a raft of new restrictive measures, will come into effect on Thursday” to deal with the coronavirus.

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha “said the enactment of the 2005 Royal Decree of Emergency Situations” which gives the him “the sole authority in implementing policies designed to combat the pandemic through the Centre for Resolution of Emergency Situation…”.

Long-time readers will recall the use of this Centre being used against red shirts and the use of emergency decrees in the recent past by the junta.

The “decree empowers authorities to impose curfews, ban travels, and close down buildings without warrants…. Security officers will also have the power to censor and shut down media if deemed necessary.”

Sound familiar?

Interestingly, today is the first anniversary of the rigged election. The Bangkok Post remembered and made some salient points, referring to a “dysfunctional democracy.” It isn’t a democracy, but whatever it is, it is dysfunctional. The editorial is right to observe that the “return to democracy” has “yet to materialise.”

It adds that the “credibility and legitimacy of key independent public organisations” has to be re-established “along with rewriting the charter and election laws.” It notes that the puppet Election Commission’s “handling of the polls largely tainted the legitimacy of the process…”.

In addition, “many … question the impartiality of both the EC and the Constitutional Court.”

Then there’s the puppet National Anti-Corruption Corruption “whose dismissal of cases against certain members of the military regime has made it a laughing stock…”.

We’ve been making similar points for years and up until today.





Updated: Reprehensible regime

17 01 2020

In what seems like a somewhat naive statement, Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2020 states:

The Thai government of Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha elected in March failed to improve respect for human rights or restore genuine democratic rule after five years of military dictatorship….

To say that the military dictator’s government was “elected” in 2019 gives the military-backed, royalist regime too much legitimacy. It should never be forgotten that the military junta rigged the electoral rules and only cobbled together its coalition by having its Election Commission change the rules as the vote count was completed.

And, no one ever expected that the “new” government – which was really not very different from the junta’s government. The parties that joined the government were all composed of royalist supporters of the 2014 coup.

Coup plotters and election cheats

With those caveats, it is still worth reading the HRW report summary on Thailand. The report itself is a list of abuses by the regime that is little different from the 2019 report.

Convicted heroin smuggler

The regime seems little troubled by law or to have any moral compass. While not mentioned in the report, this is a government that has senior men who have been coup plotters, breaking the law and destroyed a constitution. It has other ministers who are flip-flopping opportunists. It also has a convicted heroin smuggler as a deputy minister.

Land grabber

And now the government’s Palang Pracharath Party has made land grabber and (if the law was actually used) criminal Parina Kraikup an appointed member of a House Committee on anti-corruption.

Nothing is bizarre enough for this essentially lawless regime. There might be a point to having a corrupt MP on the committee – she’d knows about corruption up close – being the daughter of a multiple hit-and-run former MP and local godfather figure.

It is a regime of reprehensible criminals.

Update: It is interesting to read the Bangkok Post’s editorial excoriating the EC. This is in the context of the efforts by the regime and ruling class to be rid of the Future Forward Party on trumped up charges and in a process that was probably corrupt and maybe illegal. But that’s just one of the EC’s biased actions meant to favor its bosses and the Palang Pracharath Party and the ruling regime. As the Post observes:

Given that its decisions have far-ranging impacts across the political landscape, the agency’s [the EC] seemingly dubious handling of many key political cases has steered the country’s democracy towards an increasingly dark and gloomy future.





Forgetfulness

1 10 2019

PPT is wondering about the “forgetfulness” that characterizes post-2014 Thailand.

Our wondering was partly prompted by Pithaya Pookaman, a regular contributor to Asia Sentinel. One issue is the awful standover man/MP/Minister/fraudster/former heroin trafficker/purveyor of fake degrees Thammanat Prompao. He’s gone very quiet and we assume that a bigger boss than him has told him to shut up. The advice is probably that quietness will see all that “trouble” dissolve. We previously mentioned that he would probably get away with his lies and deceit. He’s powerful, influential and well-connected. How many countries have convicted drug traffickers as ministers? But his sins can be “forgotten.”

Pithaya refers to “the farcical election in March 2019 that laundered the authoritarian power of the military junta under [Gen] Prayuth [Chan-ocha] into a shaky and unwieldly 19-party coalition…”. But what happened to the complaints about the election and the toadies at the Election Commission? Is that best forgotten? For the junta and its new regime, it probably is, but it seems stealing an election is not an offense when done by the military in 2019.

He also reckons that “the political conflict in Thailand is not between … the rich and the poor.” How quickly the basic facts are forgotten. We recall Amartya Sen’s confusing rhetoric on this, perhaps better forgotten. And it may be easily forgotten that back in 2007, per capita provincial GDP for the provinces that voted for the Democrat Party were more than 220,000 baht. For those voting for the People Power Party was just over 90,000 baht. It seems to us that those who gain most from electoral politics are those with the least.

Somyot and his money (or someone’s money)

Meanwhile, as China celebrates its nationhood, it was only a few days ago that Song Tao, the head of the International Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee met with Gen Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. It should not be forgotten that they reportedly “agreed to enhance cooperation between ruling parties for further development of bilateral ties.” Ruling parties…

Then there’s the long forgotten raid on the high-class Victoria’s Secret brothel. In recent days “[a]nti-human trafficking advocates [have been] calling on … Prayut[h] to look into a controversial decision to drop human trafficking charges against key suspects in last year’s Victoria’s Secret brothel crackdown.”

This involved underage women, including “services such as sex with virgin girls for which it charged customers as much as 100,000 baht as it was a ‘high demand service’…”.

The report remembers that “[f]ormer national police chief Somyot Poompanmoung last year admitted that he had borrowed “around 300 million baht” from [brothel owner] Kampol [Wirathepsuporn], whom he described as a friend.” It forgets to say that nothing at all has happened about Somyot’s corruption, his relationship with a sex trafficker and unusual wealth. Well, only unusual for regular people, not senior police who are mostly on the take and become seriously wealthy. Of course, Somyot was a big junta supporter and servant.

And, of course, there’s lots that is conveniently forgotten and some that’s forgotten because a lot of people are fearful of the power of military, monarchy, tycoons and other varieties of influential people.

There’s the case of Chaiyapoom Pasae, a kid shot and killed by the military and where that military has actively thwarted investigation.

Then there’s the bodies floating in the river, the disappeared anti-junta anti-monarchy activists, including men extradited to Thailand who simply disappeared. Can they really be forgotten?

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

Related, there’s the king. Do people really forget his missing missus? Do they forget the missing plaque and the missing monument commemorating the defeat of royalists?

But let’s not forget the protesters murdered by the military and never adequately investigated, in 1973, 1976, 1992 and 2010 (to mention just a few of the military’s murderous efforts).

There’s so much forgetfulness that any rational observer could only conclude that it isn’t forgetting but lying, covering up, maintaining impunity and great fear.

 

 








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